MSN Messenger was a hard-working internet visionary which taught a generation to touch-type and lol, writes BBC technology reporter Dave Lee.
It touched the lives of millions of teenagers who, in an age before real social networking, were just getting accustomed to what it was like to live on the internet.
MSN Messenger heralded a new era: a time when chatting up a classmate no longer meant the terrifying prospect of actually having to say something to them.
It meant no longer would young teens have to endure the torture of ringing the landline number of their newest crush – knowing there was a high probability that dad would pick up.
But after all the “ASL?”s and “u there?”s, Messenger’s loyal subjects became less dependent. “I’ll brb”, people said… but they never did.
Other sites, smarter and better looking, would see Messenger cast aside. In an age of exciting digital discovery, Messenger became the web’s wooden toy.
After a long career, it spent its final year enjoying a comfortable retirement in China. Its less well-regarded relative, Windows Messenger, still battles on on work computers the world over.
“It’s like MSN,” office workers say, “â€¦just not as fun.”
MSN Messenger is survived by Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Snapchat, Skype, Google+ and Instagram.
Does Seattle know how to grow?
Youâ€™d think so, with all those construction cranes back and so many mega-projects underway. Weâ€™re about to get expanded light rail, a new waterfront, a massive downtown tunnel, a super-sized 520 bridge, and a Mercer Mess that has been tidied up after 50 years of complaining. Growth would seem to be the least of our problems.
But there are some who think these endeavors are not enough. We could do more, do it bigger, do it better and, they believe, we had better get to it because weâ€™re facing big economic challenges. Boeing, for example, has become a constant worry. The company is doing a slow retreat from Puget Sound, and keeping key parts of Boeing’s work here is getting increasingly expensive for taxpayers. Some $9 billion in new tax breaks have been offered to keep 777X work here. Even so, without a major transportation package and with major union concessions just voted down, Boeing is looking for a better deal elsewhere.
Another foundation of our economy is showing signs of change, and age. Microsoft has reached maturity and experienced enough marketplace failures (Vista, Zune, Surface) that a major management shift is underway. Weâ€™ve grown accustomed to Redmond being a perennial powerhouse and millionaire-generator in the Gates-Ballmer era, but will that roll continue?
Seattle sees itself as a special incubator of the next big commercial success â€” and the new Bezos family-funded â€œCenter for Innovationâ€ at the Museum of History and Industry that opened this fall is a shrine to this self-image. Weâ€™ve scored with Starbucks, Nordstrom, Costco and Amazon, for example. But in the tech sector thereâ€™s some thought that we havenâ€™t reached our silicon potential, that we’re over-due for a new major success a la Google or Facebook.
Sure, weâ€™re a pretty good place for start-ups, but Seattle tech booster Chris DeVore recently wrotethat while Seattle is pretty good at launching companies, â€œItâ€™s been a long time since a new Seattle-based company produced a huge windfall.â€ He means a company, like Microsoft or Amazon, that lifted employees and investors by generating lots of wealth. â€œIf I had to put my finger on the one thing we could do to improve our weak â€˜startup rate,â€™ it would be to produce more explosive wins in Seattleâ€¦â€ he wrote. That would benefit start-ups and companies all up and down the food chain and generate money to invest in new ventures. Apparently, the tech sector needs a new blockbuster.
Another voice encouraging Seattle and Washington to take it to the next level is Microsoft executive vice president and general counsel Brad Smith. In October, he addressed the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerceâ€™s annual Leadership Conference, an appropriate place for business leaders to inspire the team with a growth-oriented Gipper speech. I also had a chance to talk with him afterwards. In his speech, he said â€œ[I]f there is a moment in time when we can come together and focus on raising our ambition, I think that moment is now.â€ With the state recovering economically, with greater global competition ahead (China, Brazil, South Carolinaâ€¦), and with so much potential here, we need to get going, and set our sights higher.
To that end, his Gipper â€” or maybe "Skipper" â€” speech cited a nautical example. It was inspirational achievement of the University of Washington rowing crew who beat the odds to win a gold medal in 1936. These were local boys who had to raise their own money during the Depression to go to Germany, who had to race under rules that favored Hitlerâ€™s rowing team, and who took on the task of making America proud at the Naziâ€™s infamous Olympic Games. â€œItâ€™s a reminder of what nine young men from humble background could achieve when they reached beyond themselves and worked as a team,â€ he said.
Almost one year ago today, we laid out the nightmare scenario for Microsoft (MSFT) that could lead to its business collapsing. After laying it all out, we concluded, “Fortunately for Microsoft, none of this is going to happen.”
We were wrong.
A lot changed in the last year. Microsoft’s nightmare scenario is actually starting to take hold. We’re revisiting our slideshow from last year to see how things have played out.
Each number that follows has one piece of the nightmare scenario for Microsoft and an explanation of where Microsoft stands in comparison to that hypothetical situation.
While it’s going to take a while, Microsoft isn’t the business it used to be. (as I write this from my MacBook Pro)
Since launching Windows Phone 7, itâ€™s marketshare has dropped 38% which means that by the time that Nokia introduces Windows Phone 7 devices, the OS may be about as popular as the Symbian OS it dropped in support of Windows 7.
The question is for how much longer handset makers and carriers will consider it worth supporting Windows Phone 7. Microsoft’s mobile market share has been declining at a compound rate of about 5% per month for the past six months. At that pace, its overall share may be be hovering around just 4% by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, rival Google is on track to dominate smartphones. Android devices held 40% of the market as of the end of June, according to Comscore. Apple’s share came in at 26.6%, while RIM’s share, also in decline, fell to 23.4%.
i donâ€™t know of a single user of Windows Phone 7 now that I think about it. No one I know even talks about it.
It’s less than Windows 7. The UI is simpler. The media players are out. Its job is just to let your data have a place to live that you own, that you pay for, that you fully control. I would actually cut a direct deal with Amazon and create the ultimate cloud server that a user can manage themselves, that you pay for by the month. Need more services? Pay a little more. Need even more? Pay even more.
Now this would have to be promoted very crisply. With lots of influential individual developers non-disclosed and on-board long before it’s announced. But because the basic softrware already exists, on Rackspace and EC2, you can start the bootstrap right away.
You also produce a simple, beautiful client that runs on netbook hardware, and runs on every other platform you can get software on. Go ahead and develop iPhone and iPad apps. Let Apple reject them, and when they do, make it public issue. Hell, make it a public policy issue. (BTW, I would partner with Facebook on this. Let Joe Hewitt run the project. Don’t know who he is? Find out.)